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Angler doubles up on Arkansas Grand Slam

BY Randy Zellers

ON 04-02-2024


LITTLE ROCK —  Spring is prime time for many fishing tournament circuits, with anglers chasing the largest five-fish limit of bass they can weigh in to qualify for cash and prizes. But Searcy resident Caroline Ferguson keeps busy each spring chasing another award, one that recognizes variety in an angler’s fishing talent and destinations. Ferguson has claimed the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Grand Slam Award for the second year in a row, and has completed the task with plenty of time to spare.

The Arkansas Grand Slam program is a voluntary reward-based initiative to get more anglers on the water to fish for and discover new species of fish they may not normally pursue. To qualify for an Arkansas Grand Slam, anglers must catch at least one catfish, bass, crappie, bream and trout between Jan. 1-Dec. 1.

“Last year I caught my first grand slam fish on Jan. 2 when the AGFC stocked Searcy City Lake in winter, then it just sort of came together where I had caught all but one of the species while fishing there in spring,” Ferguson said. “The last fish to catch was a bluegill of all things, and it’s almost embarrassing that it took me until May to finally catch that one because they’re usually really easy to catch.”

This year, Ferguson set out on a mission and completed her Grand Slam much faster. In fact, her quest took a mere four days on her second go-round.

“When I caught a trout to start the year, I decided to see just how fast I could get it done,” Ferguson said. “I caught a bass the next day, then a catfish and bluegill the day after. I went one day without that last fish, so I went to Higginson Lake because I know it’s got crappie, and I caught that one the next day.”

JJ Gladden, AGFC assistant chief of education, said the beauty of the Arkansas Grand Slam program is that an angler doesn’t have to have access to many bodies of water or a boat to complete the award.

“You can do it in a single Family and Community Fishing Program pond if we stock it with trout in winter,” Gladden said. “Or you can go nuts and travel all over the state if you want to. The main thing is to get out, fish and have a good time.”

All qualifying applicants will receive a decal to put on their car, boat or tackle box letting all their angling buddies know they are a fishing fanatic.

Fanatic is a bit of an understatement when it comes to Ferguson. When we caught up with her for an interview, she had just loaded her kayak and was headed to the Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship being held in Alabama on Lake Guntersville April 3-6.

“I fished the Catch 22 nationwide online fishing tournament last year and the team I was in placed in the top three, which qualified for the national championship this year,” Ferguson said. “I’m really excited about it. I normally fish from the bank, and I’ve been a little cautious about fishing in a lake here in Arkansas, but here I am, about to fish in a kayak on a 69,000-acre lake!”

Ferguson says she began fishing about six years ago, when her children were about to head off on their own.

“I wanted something fun to do with all the extra time I was going to have,” Ferguson said. “I got some of my husband’s fishing stuff out of the garage and started going to Searcy City Lake. For the first year and a half, I caught nothing but panfish, but then I caught my first largemouth and it was ‘game on!’ I’ve since caught my personal best largemouth at 6.8 pounds down at [Rick Evans Grandview Nature Center].”

Ferguson volunteers for anything fishing related with the AGFC’s Fishing in The Natural State or Becoming an Outdoors-Woman programs.

“I try to help people out whenever I’m fishing and see someone holding their rod wrong or looking lost, and I volunteer with Lea White (AGFC BOW coordinator) and Bo Davidson (AGFC FINS coordinator) whenever I can,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson doesn’t just fish. Thanks to an extensive lineup of courses and offerings she learned about through the AGFC, she’s gone headfirst into hunting as well. “I’ve been able to do so much in the outdoors thanks to the [Arkansas Game and Fish Commission]. I got to take my first deer, my first alligator, went on my first duck hunt and my first quail hunt, and that is all since October!”

Visit to learn more about the Arkansas Grand Slam and apply for your award when you’ve completed the quest.




Caroline Ferguson caught this nice bluegill in her four-day quest to complete the Arkansas Grand Slam this year. Photo courtesy of Caronline Ferguson.

A rainbow trout at Searcy City Lake kicked off Ferguson’s Arkansas Grand Slam for the second year in a row. Photo courtesy of Caronline Ferguson.

The Arkansas Grand Slam is an incentive-based program to reward anglers who catch at least one bream, one bass, one catfish, one crappie and one trout in a single year.

He might be small, but this crappie completed Ferguson’s Grand Slam Fishing Award. Fish of any size qualify. Photo courtesy of Caronline Ferguson.

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